The identified case study originates from exercise 5.3. The scene is set in a mental health therapist’s office, where a 64-year-old man is asking for help. He retired at the age of 62 to devote the “golden year” with his wife, but she died a year later. His children are either engaged or attending college and no longer reside at home. He feels he no longer has “wholeness” in his life after losing his job, wife, and children and simply “rambles” around the residence. On the advice of friends, he went to see a therapist. The man showed interest in selling the property but was hesitant because of the memories he has in his residence. He would seem to be suffering from a severe loss of identity, grief, and loss.
Identity of Client
The man is 64 years old, has been widowed, is a father, and is honorably discharged. He reveals that he lives in a house without his wife and children, implying that he lives in a single-family residence with a middle-class background. No ethnicity is identified in this instance, so his race and cultural background are unidentified. Based on the client’s description, he premised his identity on his roles as a father, spouse, and worker. According to Keyes et al. (2015), close relationships impact a person’s sense of identity and self-concept. When an individual loses a loved one in a relationship, it can be a terrifying incident, resulting in distress, nervousness, drug abuse, or other mental conditions. Grief and loss trauma can occur as uncertainty about one’s role, feeling alone and detached, feeling that life is pointless and lonely, and trouble seeking interests or looking towards the future.
This man’s grief and loss tend to be linked to the loss of his identity. He is no longer a husband, is not employed, and no longer cares for his kids. These are things that most people will go through as they get older. Loneliness in older individuals is a significant public health issue linked to social participation and identity. Loneliness is defined as the distress caused by a lack of partnerships, increasing mortality risk (Keyes et al., 2015). Absence of personal contacts, residing alone, the death of a spouse, lower activity levels, or terrible health are all risk factors for late-life solitude.
This client’s identity is linked to his life stage. He’s having trouble adjusting to his new life, which is vastly different from what he has been used to. He explains, for example, that his sons are married and have a family of their own and that his younger daughter recently graduated from college. This implies that his oldest children are in their thirties, indicating that he married his wife for years and raised their kids together. He is no longer a father but a grandfather who has lost his wife. He clarifies that, although his sons are married and have children, he rarely sees them, which seems to be exacerbating his solitude. He has suffered a total “loss” of his family members. He does convey that he has considered selling the primary residence, which would provide him with more revenue to do more things, but he is hesitant since that is where he has lived with his family for decades. His hesitancy is understandable since he might feel that it is the last “piece” of when his family members were together, and if he decides to sell it, he might well think that his life has passed him by.
Helper Self Identity
Leadership with empathy is very significant. I am a 54-year-old African-American woman. My medical conditions include epilepsy, neuropathy, hemiplegic migraines, and rheumatoid arthritis. My two African American grandchildren are educated at home, raising them. Being African American and disabled allows me to be more open-minded and objective in two essential aspects of the counseling relationship. My socioeconomic background, religious doctrine, sex, health, heritage, and principles may all play a role in the assistance phase. My educational and professional background is as follows: I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Human Services and Non-Profit Leadership. I am a Christian Mentor and an accredited Life Coach. I have two books that I self-published. In addition, I am a best-selling author in a collaboration book that I wrote for and in two other writing partnerships.
Identity includes not only physiological or mental factors but also social aspects. According to Dingle Crueys and Frings (2015), social elements such as solitude, self-concept, and friendship organizations are linked to “depressive identities,” but when social forces include social time with abstinence individuals, that identity shifts to “recovery.” This implies that someone’s identity could shift depending on the social organizations with which they identify (Keyes et al., 2015). In this client’s case, he does not currently correspond to a social group, so his identity is lost. I can relate to this patient because I did lose my identity in the past, but I was able to reclaim it through new social aspects. This could be a way for me to demonstrate appropriate empathy with this patient and use it in the helping process to assist him in finding new social influences to assist him in building a new identity.
Counselor: Hello and good afternoon. Take a seat and make yourself at home. Would you like a glass of water before we begin?
Client: Hello and good afternoon. Sure, I’d like a bottle of water before we begin. Thank you.
Counselor: You are most welcome. Let’s get started. Let me begin by asking how you’re doing and assisting you today?
Client: I have never done anything like this before, and my friends advised me to speak with a counselor.
Counselor: I’m glad to hear you are willing to give it a shot. Why do you believe your friends recommended you come here?
Client: So, I retired two years ago to spend my peak years with my wife, but she passed away a year ago.
Counselor: I’m very sorry to hear that. Do you have any kids?
Client: I have three sons. Two are married, with wives and children of their own, and my youngest has just started college.
Counselor: Do you see them frequently?
Client: No, I rarely see anyone these days. I wander around my house on my own. After my wife died, I realized that retirement had only brought me issues, and now I’m stuck in this vast house alone.
Counselor: Okay, it sounds like you’re lonely because your family is no longer living with you. You have the impression that you have been undergoing nothing but loss since retiring.
Client: That’s right. I’m lonely since my wife is no longer with me, my children are no longer with me, and my profession is no longer with me. I mean, I love my children and their spouses, but I rarely see them anymore. As I previously stated, I have not worked since the death of my wife, and I appear to ramble mindlessly around my house, which is not typical of me.
Counselor: You appear to have lost your sense of identity and are struggling to figure out what to do now that you are on your own.
Client: YES! I’m not sure who I am anymore. My entire life had revolved around me being a father, a husband, and a worker; now, everything has vanished, and I have eventually realized that is just who I was. I’m at a loss for what to do now that everything I took an interest in is gone.
Counselor: Loss of identity can be incredibly distressing for an individual. Finding the “new you” at this point in your life could be extremely hard.
Client: That is why I am here. What should I be doing with my life?
Counselor: That is entirely up to you. What are some activities you enjoy or would like to try?
Client: I’m not sure. I’ve considered selling the house and using the proceeds to travel or do something else, but I’m afraid to do so because of all the memories I have there. I am fearful that selling the house, the last piece of my old life, will destroy me beyond repair.
Client: So, I should call my son more often?
Counselor: That’s a fantastic idea! Perhaps you should try to organize a family gathering soon. What else is there?
Client: I like dogs, and to be genuine, I have been thinking about doing something along those lines. I’m at a loss for what to do.
Counselor: What are your thoughts on volunteering at a nearby animal sanctuary? It can help you get out of the house, make new friends, and spend an entire day hanging out and playing with the dogs.
Client: Yes, that is a fabulous idea!
Counselor: So, here are the contact details for nearby shelters. Do you think you could call at least one of these areas before our session next week?
Client: Yes, I believe I am capable of doing so. I am so excited that I will call all of them by our next session!
Counselor: That is not a challenge! I will see you next week! Good luck with your phone calls!
Keyes, K. M., Pratt, C., Galea, S., McLaughlin, K. A., Koenen, K. C., & Shear, M. K. (2015). The burden of loss: unexpected death of a loved one and psychiatric disorders across the life course in a national study. The American journal of psychiatry, 171(8), 864–871. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13081132
Dingle, G. A., Cruwys, T., & Frings, D. (2015). Social Identities as Pathways into and out of Addiction. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1795. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01795